Ayine Cartoonist Remembered

One of Thaw Ka’s iconic cartoons on display in Rangoon. (Photo: Hpyo Wai Tha / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Selected works by a famed Burmese cartoonist who was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s feral child character “Mowgli” are now being exhibited in Rangoon some seven years after his death.

Thaw Ka is well remembered for his comic character “Ayine” (the Wild Boy) which is featured among 111 original works at an exhibition titled “Cartoon Thaw Ka Memorial 2012,” a collection of watercolor and ink sketches centered on his comic book masterpiece.

“They are also on sale in order to help the offspring of U Thaw Ka, and at the same time cartoon collectors will have a chance to grab some original works,” said Aw Pi Kyeh, the main organizer of the event as well as one of the many followers of Thaw Ka who have studied comic drawing under the guidance of the late cartoonist.

“For cartoon enthusiasts, a visit to the show may be something like a study tour,” he added.

One of the 6,504 followers on Facebook wrote. “I’ve been crazy in love with Thaw Ka’s comic characters since I was a child. I’ll be there.”

Another said “Ayine is my childhood friend. I have to say I spent my younger days with Thaw Ka’s comics. I wish I could visit the show but I am living away from Burma.”

According to the info-leaflet delivered at the show, Thaw Ka himself was a great fan of the forest dweller in the British writer’s 1894 novel “The Jungle Book.” and created Ayine in the 1970s.

What makes his Ayine different from Kipling’s Mowgli is his sense of patriotism and natural instinct to promote other people’s welfare.

Set in the time when Burma was under British colonial rule, the late cartoonist portrays his character as someone who fights against the mistreatment of the former rulers and their bureaucrats, especially supporting those living in the countryside.

When presented with situations where a weaker individual or party is being preyed upon by a stronger foe, the Burmanized feral child always takes the side of the underdog.

“I used to read the Ayine series to my children for they always have a message of loving kindness and highly developed morals,” said Mya Win, 65, a father of two.

Born in 1939 and a native of Myaungmya, a delta town in Irrawaddy division , Thaw Ka never finished high school as his interest in drawing outweighs any academic studying. He left for Rangoon at a young age to hone his skills and practiced by drawing Walt Disney characters.

“An artist becomes successful when his own nature and his work are identical. U Thaw Ka is someone like this. He is a very good-natured man, just like Ayine,” said Aw Pi Kyeh ,who regards the late cartoonist as one of the greatest.

Maung Maung Aung, another famous Burmese cartoonist who used to be a close follower of the late artist, remembers Thaw Ka for his artistic skills and benevolent attitude towards people.

“These two things made him successful,” the now-US-residing cartoonist told The Irrawaddy.

“He always said an artist is like a candle that gives light to people while burning itself,” he added.

“Cartoon Thaw Ka Memorial 2012” is open to the public from July 27-31, 10 am to 6 pm at Gallery 65 in Rangoon. No Admission fees.


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